this is the rain that came

“But hope deferred is still hope.”

Grief has found its way into my community this year, a downpour of tragedy. People keep getting taken away from us. How do we continually find ourselves amidst other people’s suffering? And then their grief becomes our own, because grief is not finite, it cannot be contained within one body. If you love deeply, grief flows into you heedlessly, from friend to friend, from lover to lover, down through histories, passed between eulogies and families and hymns. You see it, you hear it, you feel it. It shakes you down. Grief has little mercy.

If our tears could water the ground, the California drought might be less severe.

But right now it is raining outside, finally, after we waited so long for water to come down. Finally the skies acquiesced and opened. Finally there is life being brought out of the ground after so much dryness, so strange an endless summer, though the rain is finicky and intermittent—it comes and goes. I was afraid our entire state was turning into a desert. Fig season ran too long, all the way into October. I, a California child, who loathes New England winters and the severity of seasonal transitions, did not want an endless summer, because the lack of change scared me.

I was once diagnosed with adjustment disorder, which means coping with major life changes can be—or at least once was—difficult for me, but I’ve spent the past several years fending off the fear of change. I have to move with change, let the waves just take me like a sea otter, and I do—I keep changing, I keep letting change happen, I keep rejoicing in change happening. Lack of change, after all, is a kind of paralysis, like stagnant water that breeds bacteria. If not paralysis, then ignorance for sure. We measure seasons by their changes—rise over run—the steeper the slope, the more intense the seasonality. In California, the change is slight. This year, only minor fluctuations. We fluctuated less than is normal or healthy. The dry and sunny days carried on, so we enjoyed them. We continued to go to the beach and to the mountains. We kept sitting on picnic blankets at Dolores Park and eating ice cream at Humphrey Slocombe. We reveled in the easiness of it all. But the farmers were struggling. Crops were dying. Growth stopped. Thirst everywhere.

Even under the pretense of an endless summer, which I suppose can make one feel immortal, invincible, and unchangeable, we cannot help ourselves. Things will change. The cilantro I tried to grow in my house died with the intense heat. So did the Thai basil, though it was spry and lively for a little while. I can only stand to talk about the death of herbs. If these fragile herbs should remind us of anything, if my black thumb should bring about any insight or wisdom, it is that everything comes to an end, and there is a limit to how long we can ignore our mortality—yes, our mortality, which feels not like an inconvenience but a robbery, a violation, not a fact. We are obsessed with fighting our mortality by removing all signs of time and aging: botox for wrinkles, plastic surgery for sagging skin. San Franciscans are a particular breed of ageless city-dwellers, foolishly basking in a hopelessly implausible sunshine of eternal youth.

I’m talking about weather and plants because it is difficult to talk about everything else. I am writing about common things in hopes that I will have some way of writing about the abstract and the tragic. But perhaps when we talk about death and suffering and pain and love we are talking about common things after all… Death is as common a thing as weather and plants, and yet…

And yet, because of death, we find ourselves in a profusion of darkness that neither weather nor dead houseplant can foretell. From endless summer we move into endless night, and it is there, in that grief, that the limit of language reveals itself. Words fall short. Their power seems insufficient, and I, whose words are the way I help myself, cannot help my grieving friends with my words. I can hardly allay their grief. I feel weak and powerless. Writing is so difficult right now. My words cannot change the course of things; I cannot turn over their grief. Though grief is right and necessary and cannot be retracted, nor should it be, grief is hard to bear, whether you are bearing it, baring it, or merely bearing witness. Grief is living in pain. Grief is a wound. But the heart will move as it moves, in its own time. Let grief be, I know that.

And I am helpless because the grief I know is only tangential. I sit at the fringes of other people’s sadnesses. I grieve around the edges, for what the people I love have lost and cannot be recovered. They are hurting so deeply, so I grieve alongside. I grieve for the seasons. I grieve the change that has to happen, that has happened, that will happen: this is grief that had to be after that first shalom was broken; the grief that will come again (its recurrence is no less disarming or painful); the grief of absence, which often feels more violating than any presence. The grief that is not proof of our weakness, but a revelation of our humanity. I grieve for our human-ness, for our humanity.

I try to grieve without fear. But fear consumes me, mostly in my sleep. 

With the words I have, I eulogize the living. This is what I do best. I will continue to celebrate what I have here, I will continue to celebrate the people I love. I will continue to hold their grief inside me, and then cast their cares heavenwards. I will invite your grief into me. These words keep resounding in my ears: “So joy can be joy and sorrow can be sorrow, with neither of them casting either light or shadow on the other.” Let your joy be joy and your sorrow be sorrow. Joy and sorrow do exist, together and separately. I do not think we can have one without the other; but I do think they do make one another more powerful and resonant, without inflating or diminishing. In spite of sorrow, because of joy, let us continue on, however we may.

“But my heart and body are crying out, come back, come back. Be a circle, touching my circle on the plane of Nature. But I know this is impossible. I know that the thing I want is exactly the thing I can never get. The old life, the jokes, the drinks, the arguments, the lovemaking, the tiny, heartbreaking commonplace … It is a part of the past. And the past is the past and that is what time means, and time itself is one more name for death, and Heaven itself is a state where ‘the former things have passed away.’”
-C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

“We fly forgotten as a dream, certainly, leaving the forgetful world behind us to trample and mar and misplace everything we have ever cared for. That is just the way of it, and it is remarkable.”
-Marilynne Robinson, Gilead


“Time” is a word. “Love” is a word.
Between them are words and between them
an entrance. I pray to be
entranced, starting right now again I do.
I am old enough to understand
being willing
to go on is a great gift.

-Liz Waldner, "The Sovereignty and the Goodness of God, Together with the Faithfulness of His Promises Displayed"


"No doubt some other young man, who takes his heart's impressions more prudently, who has already learned how to love not ardently but just lukewarmly, whose thoughts, though correct, are too reasonable (and therefore cheap) for his age, such a young man, I say, would avoid what happened to my young man, but in certain cases, really, it is more honorable to yield to some passion, however unwise, if it springs from great love, than not to yield to it at all ... I am glad that at such a moment my young man turned out to be not so reasonable: the time will come for an intelligent man to be reasonable, but if at such an exceptional moment there is no love to be found in a young man's heart, then when will it come?"

-Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov


this is a newsletter

I'm starting a periodic newsletter. I'll be sending the first one out in the next few days.

An experiment in writing, dissemination, relations. With the added bonus of absurdity, strangeness, and things on the edge of your consciousness.

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there is a prevenient grace...

I write these things not as new insights—for many poets, theologians, and philosophers have expounded on these truths much more incisively, eloquently, and deeply than I will ever—but as reminders for myself, and maybe others. Despite the daily evidence of these truths, I am forgetful and easily distracted! For the times that I can remember them I count as blessings, and for the moments in which I can act on them, I count as divine miracles, a bestowing of a supernatural grace.

New Camaldoli Hermitage, 10/16

Love and grace precede us.

By which I mean that the existence and efficacy of love and grace are not contingent on our actions and words, and not even on our ability to receive them. Their power, in fact, lies in their prevenience, in our inability to merit either. We receive them nonetheless.

We forget this too often because in our everyday lives, we are tethered to a very human, which means limited, conception of justice, elementary cognitive systems of what is right and wrong. We miss the point completely when we define ourselves by our weaknesses but also when we overestimate our strengths. We are blind when we are mired in darkness, but also when we over-expose ourselves to false and artificial light…

The systems and institutions we live in have their own measures of justice, of course, doling out rewards and punishments deemed worthy and necessary based on subjective measures of goodness and evil. What a fair punishment is in another part of the world may seem like an atrocity here, and what standards of freedom we uphold here may seem like a misstep in justice elsewhere. Beyond our governments, our cultures also shape our sense of propriety, and for the most part, we must live under these laws, spoken and unspoken, that organize the places that we live in. But for this very reason, it is easy to believe that we are incapable of harm, or evil, or darkness, when we stay within the bounds of the laws set upon us, whether visibly or invisibly. We forget—it’s easier to—that, as complex creatures with even more complex admixtures of good and evil in us, we are not merely one or the other but inevitably possessors of both. Sometimes it is impossible for us to distinguish one from the other. That we do not suffer the punishments of human society or profess visible signs of madness does not mean we are exempt from darkness; that we do not receive the praise of men does not mean we have no goodness in our hearts either.

For when you witness, in all its agony and dissonance and mystery, the unsettling heterogeny of the human soul—whether you see the moments of light in a swath of darkness, or echoes of light receding into the shadows—you are not seeing something separate from yourself. You cannot distance yourself from the reality of realities, supposing you are any better or any worse. He is not an aberration, and neither are you.

I am not justifying or rationalizing atrocities. My theodicy is not to condone or ignore evil; I cannot condemn, that is not my place. But I am saying all this because, amidst the sorrow and tragedy and betrayal that our lives are not without, it is much easier to try to make sense of darkness—muddling is futile though—than to seek the light. I am wrestling with questions much too great for my understanding and knowledge, but let me clarify—I am not trying to answer the question of why evil exists, or why people do evil. I am saying, that in what I know to be true, grace was bestowed on us before we knew that we needed it.

The narratives that drive us to do good or wrong are complex, for sure. Give people the benefit of this complexity. Our broken, faltering natures will always be a fact and a mystery. I do not know why we do the things that we do, but I also know, that in the irrational way we are compelled to fuck things up, we are also recipients of an irrational love, and by irrational, I mean, incomprehensible by the human mind, unexposed by reason.

In the face of utter desolation and devastation, when we are in the wilderness of ourselves, perhaps we are not to justify it or make sense of it, or to even come to terms with it, but instead, run towards what we know to be true.

For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion. So great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring afflictions of grief to the children of men.*

I think back to the moments in which someone has been gracious to me—given me something when I felt I deserved nothing. Was it my need or their gift that was the grace? Surely the grace began at its mere intention, at the giving before it was given. The grace was not consecrated because of my need for it. Neither was the grace amplified because I felt diminished, or lessened because I was no longer in need of it (the latter is impossible, I think).

            Forgive them for they know not what they do.**

It is much easier to receive grace than to give it of course, especially when the extension of such—and what is alike: mercy, forgiveness—feels like a betrayal of our selves, the pride of our principles, our precarious sense of justice. We might even feel offended by the possibility of such grace. What’s left of us might be rend asunder. We cling onto what we know; all else is unsafe and dangerous, an affront to our identities, our culture, whom we know ourselves to be.

By our sensibilities and our senselessness, we demand to know exactly what it is that we are forgiving, and whether, by our own calculating conscience, such an offense is worth the forgiveness. Can we risk such a transaction? Often we wait to be distracted from our anger or we force time to dissipate our anger before we will admit to the relevance of grace in our circumstances.

How then do we extend it? Not by our own will, and not by the abilities that we have. We do have to try to extend it though, calling upon what divine help there is. We extend it with both joy and sorrow, I suppose, which I believe, are not in diametrical opposition—for you can be joyful, that in God’s prevenient grace we have an incredible example to follow and a great gift to receive, and you can be sorrowful in the clear-eyed recognition that, in the first place, our truly broken selves require such divine grace to heal.

This happens for reasons that are hidden from us, utterly hidden, for as long as we think they must proceed from what has come before, our guilt or our deserving, rather than coming to us from a future that God in his freedom offers us … 
The future always finds us changed. Each of them, joy and loss, exists in its own right and must be recognized for what it is. Sorrow is very real, and loss feels very final to us. Life on earth is difficult and grave, and marvelous.  
Nothing makes sense until we understand that experience does not accumulate like money, or memory, or like years and frailties. Instead, it is presented to us by a God who is not under any obligation to the past except in His eternal, freely given constancy. When I say that much the greater part of our existence is unknowable by us because it rests with God, who is unknowable, I acknowledge His grace in allowing us to feel that we know any slightest part of it. Therefore, we have no way to reconcile its elements because they are what we are given out of no necessity at all except God’s grace in sustaining us as creatures we can recognize as ourselves.  
So joy can be joy and sorrow can be sorrow, with neither of them casting either light or shadow on the other.*** 
We are broken, but we do not have to be crestfallen, for that brokenness is not all there is. Instead, there is hope, and that hope is manifest in the prevenience of the abundant grace and love which I have seen and felt, and I hope you do too.

So have compassion. Have mercy. It is much easier to not than it is to live by these things, but we must persevere. I think it a travesty—a perversion, really—of the density and beauty of these truths, to reduce them to mere bolsters of identity and self-worth, or to decide by our own human and arbitrary means, what merits compassion and what does not. Certainly, having compassion and mercy can result in the betterment of society and of humankind as a whole, and yet we cannot depend on these measures to justify our actions, and we cannot depend on ourselves to make better what will break over and over again.

Redemption comes from outside us. To see redemption is to first see darkness, followed by a miraculous light… I do believe that our lives, as brief as they may be, as much tragedy and sorrow as they do bear, are gifts, spans of time bestowed on us in which we know love and love more, in which we receive grace and give it, in which the character of God becomes more apparent and more astounding as we parse through our own joys and sorrows. His love, his mercy, his grace, his compassion are endless and infinite, and these are the things to which our lives must cleave. I have no authority in writing all this, but there is a beginning, a greater author by whom we must, if we will live hopefully and joyfully, carry out all the unconditional love and compassion we can muster. There is a root in a Creator, and He is the reason and the first manifestation, the highest principle.

But what is it which gives a man immortality, what except the love which abides?****

* Lamentations 3:31-33
** Luke 23:34
*** Marilynne Robinson, Lila
**** Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love


Francis Bacon. Three Studies of the Male Back, 1970 

"The way I try to bring appearance about makes one question all the time what appearance is at all. The longer you work, the more the mystery deepens of what appearance is, or how can what is called appearance be made in another medium. And it needs a sort of moment of magic to coagulate colour and form so that it gets the equivalent of appearance, the appearance that you see at any moment, because so-called appearance is only riveted for one moment as that appearance. In a second you may blink your eyes or turn your head slightly, and you look again and the appearance has changed. I mean, appearance is like a continuously floating thing."

-Francis Bacon, in conversation with David Sylvester

What's madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day's on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
That place among the rocksis it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have . . .

-Theodore Roethke, "In a Dark Time"


"Like that bewildered savage who has picked up a strange object . . . perhaps something thrown up by the sea, perhaps disinterred from the sands or dropped from the heavens . . . an object intricate in its convolutions, which shines first with a dull glow and then with a bright shaft of light . . . who keeps turning it over and over in his hands in an effort to find some way of putting it to use, seeking some humble function for it, which is within his limited grasp, never conceiving a higher purpose . . "

-Aleksandr Solzenitsyn, "Beauty Will Save the World"

"About my interests: I don't know if I have any, unless the morbid desire to own a sixteen-millimeter camera and make experimental movies can be so classified. Otherwise, I love to eat and drinkit's my melancholy conviction that I've scarcely ever had enough to eat (this is because it's impossible to eat enough if you're worried about the next meal)and I love to argue with people who do not disagree with me too profoundly, and I love to laugh. I do not like bohemia, or bohemians, I do not like people whose principal aim is pleasure, and I do not like people who are earnest about anything. I don't like people who like me because I'm a Negro; neither do I like people who find in the same accident grounds for contempt. I love America more than any other country in the world, and exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually. I think all theories are suspect, that the finest principles may have to be modified, or may even be pulverized by the demands of life, and that one must find, therefore, one's own moral center and move through the world hoping that this center will guide one aright. I consider that I have many responsibilities, but none greater than this: to last, as Hemingway says, and get my work done. I want to be an honest man and a good writer."

-James Baldwin, "Autobiographical Notes"


this is the beyond

Nicasio Reservoir, 10/21

On the drive to Point Reyes Station from San Francisco, after ten miles on Lucas Valley Road, you’ll curve around the Nicasio Reservoir, a shallow basin of glassy water with fingers that reach into the surrounding crevices of Marin's dry and grassy hills. You’ll be focused on making your way around each bend with enough speed and balance, and the scenery will move—appear and then disappear—as you move through it. Even so, you will inevitably be struck by how still the water is, a mirrored expanse upon which Jesus surely could have tread. The sky above, the wisps of fog contrails that crown the peaks below, are doubled—made more glorious—in the water, a reflection that seems to be a landscape unto itself, not just a cheapened reproduction of the thing above, but the expansion of an Edenic vision. The light makes it so. For reflections and shadows, which are transient, changing footprints, marked and then unmarked, may slip away from us—they are not things or objects to which we can give a proper name—, but they are, nevertheless, the vital signs of a prelapsarian light cast from up above. They give shape and sense to an otherwise formless darkness.

I have been noticing these reflections and shadows everywhere. As I glean and then tell the stories of people who are making objects and books and vessels to eat off of, I suppose I am merely shifting and shaping and refracting light to ensure that the reflection I put forth is as rich a thing as the person herself, and that the reflection might expose what the eye itself might have trouble seeing otherwise, a small, evanescent glimpse at the richness and the complexity of being human.

Lately, I have been going into strangers’ houses and asking them to tell me about their lives, which takes courage on my part as well as theirs—and I have been impressed by earnestness, openness, hospitality. Most of what I do is listen, which I like to do, and then I try to see, like not just look at what’s in front of me—the surfaces—but really see what is on the peripheries, and what little gems I might find if I just push aside a log, or brush off some sand—an obsidian arrowhead or a sand dollar or a piece of smooth glass tumbled over and over again in crashing waves.

It is a privilege to see the different textures of light, the multiplicity of hues and tones and colors, which you know is an infinite range if you’ve driven from the west coast to the east and seen the way light casts itself differently in every landscape. White looks different in every place you go. It is a privilege to be given the time and space to hear the voice of a person’s consciousness—this will never be dreary or boring for me, ever. To be in wonderment, to be in awe—I thank God for those things, for, through an exchange of words, finding myself in new terrains, exploring perspectives not owed to me, but gifted graciously.

In listening to other people's stories, and trying to know them more, I have a clearer sense of similarity and difference, both of which imply relations, or perhaps, a relationship. The profound realization that we are similar, or that we are different, is a recognition at the very least, that we are related in some way. To see similarity in a person is to know that this person is not irrelevant to you; to see difference, is to realize that you can't make generalizations about humanity as a whole—which you (and I) do not understand, beyond a few fundamental things, like our collective need for love and respect and kindness. Both similarity and difference require the space—and grace—of empathy; they demand acceptance that goes beyond acknowledgment. To know a person, of course, is to break through a surface, render the glass asunder, I suppose, and to know that impressions might be mere shadows or reflections—sometimes distorted, overexposed, twisted. The resonance of the ocean changes as you go down into its depths, as you pass through the sunlight zone, into the twilight zone, the midnight zone, and then finally, into the abyss. In those deepest of depths—I have not explored—life exists we might not know otherwise. Knowing those depths at all, requires that we admit we might not have known anything at all.

Most days, we shuffle through a long, dark tunnel from home to work to the places we know that are bounded in ways that make us feel safe and comfortable. It is hard to see beyond those walls, and it is easy to repeat those shuffling motions numbly, without any sense of obligation to an outside world, a wilderness beyond ourselves that we can’t fathom, or bear to try. But in the very little I know—in the very few years I’ve lived—I know that people gather a sense of meaning about their lives—a sense of resilient joy, which I mean to be a profound acceptance of their own existence—from moments in which they see beyond themselves. Do we not thirst for the transcendent? We want to see beyond tangible things, beyond what is merely physical. Despite our beliefs or unbeliefs, the seeking for the beyond, for the farther, for what lies outside of our humanly grasp, seems to be the most redeeming—and at times the most damning—quality of our consciousness. Like water refusing to be held, our understanding of what we cannot see seems to slip out from under us, again and again. Sometimes we can’t be bothered. Most of the time we are distracted by the shiny baubles that dangle around our heads like a child’s mobile toy, a temporary pacifier—but no maternal comfort.

Knowing this, I am relieved—elated, in fact—to live in this particular Bay Area landscape, in which so many different terrains and ecosystems—lakes, mountains, dry deserts, marshes, deep forests, grasslands—converge and make themselves known to us, if we will pay attention. Because there is no way you can, when you meet these mountains, and lakes, and oceans, ignore their grandeur, their infinity, their mystery, their glimpses of this truth that we are minute and small and that much else exists beyond our lives as we know it. They the rolling hills, they the bodies of water, they the great sequoias are mere synecdoches, parts of some greater whole. They are nature’s figures of speech that implore us to acknowledge the existence of secrets we will never know and crevices we will never explore. There are ways moving and being in the wild that we will never understand. The humility—the unknowingness—in the face of all that, is comforting, I think, breathlessly so; I am relieved to relinquish a need to know it all, to know how it all plays out.


"Wabi-sabi is an aesthetic appreciation of the evanescence of life. The luxuriant tree of summer is now only withered branches under a winter sky. All that remains of a splendid mansion is a crumbled foundation overgrown with weeds and moss. Wabi-sabi images force us to contemplate our own mortality, and they evoke an existential loneliness and tender sadness."

-Leonard Koren


this is how it's been

“Unemployment” hasn’t really panned out as I thought it would. That’s not a completely accurate statement, as I had no foresight—or plan—as to how this particular time of my life would develop. But I am working everyday—harder than I did at my last job, probably because I don’t have the privilege of a false structure I can cling to—going into an office, getting paid a regular salary, employment by a known company—when I am passing minutes mindlessly.

There was no particular thing I wanted to happen, except to live by the day, as long as I could with the means I have, in pursuit of what I believe is good and meaningful: faith, knowledge, community, relationships.

I spent two weeks in Asia—first in Taiwan, and then in Hong Kong, celebrating the birthdays of both my grandmothers. They are paragons of elegant aging.

All my life, both oceans and languages have separated me from my grandparents. I have always had the sense that I do not really know them, and they do not really know me. All I know of them is their love for me, a kind of blind and ridiculous love that I will not understand until I am a grandparent, perhaps. I hear about my grandparents from my parents, mostly. For the majority of my life, they have been abstract ideas, with temporary stints of embodiment when I visit them, or when they used to visit me. A person incarnate, after so much time as an idea, is mostly distressing, incongruous—this is the bane of an active imagination, I suppose, or a mind biased towards perfection. Mostly, I was saddened by the diminishing of time, the realization of Shakespearean tropes—minutes hastening to their end, Time’s scythe mowing everything down, swift and ravaging—mere poetry until manifest IRL, which is blindness, deafness, exhaustion, old skin, wrinkles, inertia, pain, diminishing appetites. A week after I waved goodbye to my grandmother at the airport—a moment that surprised me with its pain and gravitas—, she was knocked over by a reckless and truculent man. She fell down and broke her clavicle. I saw her on Facetime last night, her voice hoarse, her neck swathed in gauze.

After that short trip to Asia, I came back here, to the States, glad to return to a place where I feel a deep sense of belonging, but was also wary of that sense, which I’ve believed, by experience, can be a mirage. I constantly carry with me the doom of impending loss. I stayed for a short while, and then I drove down south, down highway 1, and sojourned at a monastery for a few nights. Quiet beauty. Silence I craved. A taste of what it is like to feel, not lonely, but alone—a distinction I am still fleshing out. A woman in the wilderness feels a sense of danger—paranoia caused by abrupt and creeping noises—with which a man will never truly be able to empathize—unless you live in a war zone, maybe, or Fruitvale (I kid).

These days, I am traveling up and down the coast—to Bolinas, Pt. Reyes, Inverness—interviewing people, writing their stories. In talking with artists and makers, I have garnered a sense that, while the economics and circumstances of life may often be difficult, the pursuit of art—not its desired outcomes or its profits, but the tumbling after—has been straightforward. A choice backed up by repetitive acts, commitments made to oneself that are enacted everyday, every week, every month. The repetition lurches you forward. 

The endeavor to create is no fruitful task—it is first and foremost an endeavor, not an accomplishment. The accomplishment seems to be a byproduct, sometimes a turn of luck—recognition by people with a certain authority and acclaim, serendipity, the collision of fortunate circumstances. But I am more convinced than ever, that we, a people, were created to do work, and to work hard at what we do, whatever that is. Work looks different for everyone, but idleness and recreation, which are so glorified, in our idealization of rogues and wild men and hippies, the itinerant, the world traveler, the pilgrim who walks El Camino and then across Siberia (perhaps these are forms of work too, I know not, and will not assume they are not, but these occupations are idealized because we believe them to be the antitheses of work) seem to me, to be robbing ourselves of our own endowments: of talents, of gifts, of the ways we could possibly give ourselves back to this world. Dolce far niente­—the sweetness of doing nothing—doesn’t make sense to me, unless it’s in the context of resting, a Sabbath. Call me a Puritan—I am of the America founded on a Protestant work ethic—and I’ll tell you that I can hardly live up to that Puritanism, because working hard is not easy—most days I want to give up. 

Philip Lopate wrote a remarkable and highly memorable essay called “Against Joie De Vivre”—which I love for its grumpy truth—we suffer the same kind of nervous discontent, I think—and in it, he makes a point about the fundamental nature of humans—which is to be constantly hungry—at least he is, and I am—and that precludes an idealism that would find perfect richness in every present moment. Keep busy, he says, which I interpret, by way of his passage on depressives that follows, to avoid self-pity, to accept the imperfect distress and anxiety that occasionally riddle our lives—some more than others—, and to swallow the disappointments (I say, mourn them, move on as best as you can). Every day since I’ve quit my last job, I’ve battled idealism and nihilism, both the idolization of joie de vivre and the realization of its frequent senselessness. And after I’ve thought about all this for a moment, I return to where I was—which is, in the middle of some action, some forward motion. I keep walking, keep praying.

More later.

 “You write about yourself because in the long run all man’s problems are the same, his human needs of sustenance and love.”
-Dorothy Day

“We are using, everyone of us, words as coins in our everyday life, in the barter between men, and once in a while we put up a temporary hut or store for our thought and feeling. But the artist knows how to erect a building with language as material, which he is polishing and selecting and treating and arranging; a building, built in a severe style, created by imagination and order, not only serving for the occasion, but offering a home, a refuge, an expression even to our more or less homeless and wandering feelings and thoughts.”

-Nathan Söderblom, The Living God